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Jacob Chansley’s Lawyer Cites Client’s 2006 Mental Health Diagnosis in Bid for Sentencing Break

Jacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 Getty Images photo. He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

Jacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 Getty Images photo. He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

Some 15 years before entering the U.S. Capitol decked out in a Viking hat, face paint, a coyote fur headdress, and no shirt, Jacob Chansley said he was a U.S. Navy supply clerk seaman apprentice who sought medical help to determine whether he was “crazy.”

According to a new court filing, the series of consultations that he received in 2006 produced a diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder, which Chansley’s defense attorney Albert Watkins revealed on Tuesday in the hopes of securing a sentencing break for his client.

“It is now time for all Americans to wake up to the role mental health vulnerabilities play in society and bring to the fore the compassion and patience required to eliminate the social stigma associated with mental illness,” Watkins said in a press release, which refers to his client’s diagnosis “Schizophrenia Personality Disorder.”

As the Mayo Clinic notes, the mental health conditions are not the same.

“Schizotypal personality disorder can easily be confused with schizophrenia, a severe mental illness in which people lose contact with reality (psychosis),” the clinic’s website notes. “While people with schizotypal personality disorder may experience brief psychotic episodes with delusions or hallucinations, the episodes are not as frequent, prolonged or intense as in schizophrenia.”

Though Watkins waves the mantle of mental health awareness for his client, the flamboyant St. Louis-based attorney made headlines earlier this year for calling Jan. 6 rioters “short-bus people.” The lawyer claimed that he used his shock-jock language purposefully, ultimately succeeding in obtaining court-ordered a psychological evaluation for Chansley.

Despite his 2006 diagnosis, Chansley was found competent to plead guilty in September. He faces sentencing on Nov. 17.

Watkins says that the results of the psychological evaluation that he receive supports the diagnosis from a decade and a half earlier.

“The 2021 confirmation of the 2006 diagnosis of Schizotypal Personality Disorder is noted by Dr. van der Walt as being an ‘enduring disorder that is unlikely to change without intensive therapeutic intervention,'” the defense sentencing memo states.

Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, refused to release Chansley from jail pending his sentencing, calling him a “mascot” for QAnon. Before his conviction for obstructing an official proceeding, Chansley tried and failed to get out of jail, in no small part because of an ill-fated 60 Minutes+ interview he participated in with his mother Martha Chansley.

The judge found that the “media publicity stunt” violated jailhouse protocols, and he found that it undermined arguments to release Chansley to the custody of his mother.

Mental health issues exacerbated Chansley’s prison stint, Watkins argued, saying that spells of solitary confinement have been particularly damaging.

“It is universally accepted that the placement in solitary confinement of those possessed of mental health vulnerabilities of the nature possessed by the Defendant is nothing short of torture,” Watkins wrote. “Not political torture. Simply unwitting torture that, if designed with intent, could not more effectively serve to deliver Mr. Chansley and others in like state into the proverbial mental health abyss.”

Though invoking his client’s family turned out poorly in the past, Watkins prefaced his sentencing memo with a reference to a fictional mother-son relationship.

The opening quote, attributed to the eponymous protagonist of the Hollywood blockbuster Forrest Gump — but misspelled as “Forest Gump” — says the following: “My momma always said, ‘You’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.’”

The government calculated Chansley’s sentencing range between 41 and 51 months in prison, but the defense called for a term “significantly below” that.

Read the defense sentencing memo, below:

[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images, Alexandria Detention Center]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."